By Fort Campbell CourierOctober 22, 2010
Fort Campbell spouses had a lot of fun and got some special "peer" attention this past weekend from the Army Wife Network and the spouse's Field Exercise at the Family Resource Center.
Founders of AWN and the FEX, Tara Crooks and Star Henderson, know first-hand, at home and at work, how to make it all work while being apart.
"We work virtually, so we have our own separate offices," said Henderson. "We're across the nation from each other [Fort Sill to Arlington, Va.] and we've both been through PCS's and deployments, too."
Crooks and Henderson, popular radio show hosts on AWN, met at Fort Stewart, Ga., back in 2007. Immediately, they wanted a way to make the spouse's FEX more than just a written column. They wanted a way to take it on the road.
Fort Stewart is where the two pitched their idea to USAA. USAA bought into the concept as title sponsor. All of a sudden, the spouse's FEX now had life, legs and "shoes on the ground."
"It started out as a much smaller event," said Crooks. "It started with Military Spouse Appreciation Day in May 2007. Now we appreciate our military spouses every day."
"The reason why this program is so popular now than when we first started is we looked at it as meeting our own needs," said Henderson. "Figuring out what we want has helped us present it to other spouses like us with the same needs."
"This program is four hours of relaxation, fun and networking. The spouses get to meet new 'battle buddies' or even have their battle buddies come with them for the evening," said Crooks. "We talk about deployment and all the different cycles of the deployment phase. We laugh with each other. We make light of some of the really tough things that happen in deployment, but in a way that makes us all feel like we're normal."
Over the past three years, Crooks and Henderson have figured out certain nuances that would make a military spouse want to attend the event outside of even having fun and networking.
"We wanted an event that would furnish child care. We wanted to be able to hang out without our kids being at our feet for the night," added Crooks. "We wanted to be able to be in a place where we're not cooking, where we had free dinner offered to us. We didn't want our gift bag to have ads all over it or stuffed with a bunch of flyers. We wanted good stuff."
This year's event at Fort Campbell almost didn't take place as the spouse's FEX slate was already filled by other installations. However, at the last minute, one installation had to reschedule. Crooks and Henderson immediately picked up the phone and knew exactly where to call.
"We talked to Fort Campbell in August because we have a six- to eight-week planning process for this event," said Crooks. "It was very quick notice for them, but they were really good in answering the call because they wanted us there anyway. Fort Campbell responded very fast."
The appreciation from Fort Campbell spouses for the rescheduling was evident by those who attended.
"I think it is great that somebody would come out and make the spouses feel like they are appreciated," echoed spouse, Monica Rosado. "I think it's good for our morale while so many of our husbands are away right now."
Rosado's "battle buddy" for the night, Tara Adams added, "It's something to do while our husbands are deployed. It's a good meeting place for other spouses."
Tina Tucker, Army Community Services program administrator at FRC, was very pleased at the turnout.
"I attended the event in 2008 and it was great then, but actually being here and helping them put on the event this time around was amazing. I love it. Everything went off perfectly," said Tucker. "Any installation that wants to do this program should do it. They are so easy to work with and it's so much fun."
MWR Director of Marketing Melissa Schaffner said, "the encouragement and advice provided to our spouses of deployed Soldiers by the ladies of Army Wife Network was truly a 'priceless package.'"